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The Salt March of 1930

Piles of Salt

Salt. Such a small, taken-for-granted ingredient had to be the first step in leading India towards its independence in 1930. Between March and April of 1930, a historical salt march was led by Mohandas Gandhi in India to protest against the Salt Act imposed by the British rule in 1882. This prohibited Indians from collecting or selling any salt, one of the main ingredients used in their cooking. As a result, not only were they forced to buy salt from the British themselves who had established a monopoly over the manufacturing and selling of the product, they also had to pay a heavy tax on it. This fed more into the problem of poverty in the country, even though it was a problem faced by Indians of all social classes as everybody made use of the salt.

Gandhi, who was known for his passion in fighting for Indians’ civil rights, declared resistance to this policy and set the theme for the protest to be ‘satyagraha’, meaning mass civil disobedience as a non-violent means of protest. On March 2nd, 1930, ten days before the protest, he sent a letter to the Viceroy Lord Irwin to inform him of his and his followers’ intentions to break the Salt Act.  On March 12th, Gandhi and the rest of the protestors set out on a 240-mile trek from Sabermanti to Dandi to collect their own salt from seawater. The crowd kept getting bigger as more and more Indians joined the protest along the way.

By the end of the month-long journey, more than 60,000 people were arrested by the British authorities for joining the protest, including Gandhi himself who was arrested on May 5th. This did not stop the other protestors from continuing their fight. When Gandhi got out of prison in January of the following year, the first thing he did was meet the Viceroy Lord Irwin to negotiate the Salt Act and the two came to the agreement that the issue would be debated at a conference on India’s future to be held later on in London in exchange for calling off the protest.  The conference was not a success, but Gandhi had already left his mark on the British authorities, and they realised they could not ignore nor suppress his efforts.  India eventually gained its independence in 1947 as a nation who never stopped fighting for their rights.

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